Archive for July, 2012

July 29, 2012

The Story So Far

We want to thank you for your support of our blogging efforts.

We’ve been going for about 5 months now and are very much enjoying it.  We’ve put up 40 posts on a wide variety of topics and have truly enjoyed sharing some of the wisdom (we hope!) that God has given us.

A funny thing has happened with Catherine’s first ever entry which is titled “Are you a Sherpa?”  The idea is that people sometimes carry burdens that God wants to set us free from.  The Sherpa are actually a people group – a small ethnic group who live mostly in Nepal.  Wikipedia says, “Today, the term is often used casually…by foreigners to refer to almost any guide or porter hired for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas.”  The use of the word in the title was certainly this sort of use – as shorthand for porter or bag-carrier.

Over the last month or 2 we’ve been getting people from all over the world clicking onto that post after putting the word “sherpa” into a search engine.  About half our daily traffic on days that we don’t put up a fresh post is from this source.  It has become our most read post by a big margin.

Catherine often prays about what she writes about.  She’ll often feel led to go in a certain direction.  The funniest occasion was when she put a couple of hours into writing a post, went to have a shower and felt God say to her, “now that I have your attention, I want you to write about this…”  The result was The Secrets that we Keep which has been the 4th most popular post so far.

My (John’s) most popular post was my look at Pentecostal Preaching.  I have written frequently about church issues and also more broadly about Christian living.  I thought that the church ones would have been less popular than those with a broader appeal but it has been about the same.

And I must also admit that Catherine’s posts have been on average WAY more popular than mine.  What can I say?  She’s talented.  I’ve married up.

We want to continue to scratch where people are itching so if there is something that you want us to write more about then let us know.  If you want more of some topics and less of others then let us know.  If you have anything you want to say at all then let us know.

John

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July 26, 2012

A Ladies Only Post

For all the beautiful men in my life that were hoping that this post was going to encourage their wives about the joy of sex or the wearing of beautiful lingerie – sorry not today boys. This post is going to use sentences that contain words like PMT, leakage, cramping and bloating so consider yourselves truly warned – only the bravest of men would truly read on.

I suffer from severe PMT, emotionally and physically. Physically my breasts become so sore that I have pain shooting through them, I bloat like a fattened pig and the cramping is unbelievable. I feel like someone is literally ripping the lining from the wall of my uterus. For some reason ever since having a baby my period has become really heavy. On my heaviest days I have to change my tampon every couple of hours. If I ignore it the consequences are quick and dire. Two or three years ago I went away with 6 other woman to a conference in Sydney. We were all gas bagging one night seated on one of the other ladies hotel room bed. I was sitting at the head of the bed with my back propped up against the pillow. I suddenly felt that all too familiar feeling of leakage. I jumped up and to my horror there was a small smear of blood on the crisp white sheet. I wanted to die, I was so embarrassed. Before the others noticed I came up with a solution. I said ‘I’m really sorry; I’ve leaked on your sheets. Let’s all jump up and strip the bed – we can turn the sheet over and then put the end with the blood on it down the bottom face down.’ Within 30 seconds the bed was remade. I excused myself to change my tampon but didn’t come back to their room. I did what any self-respecting woman would do – I sat on my bed and bawled my eyes out.

I have at least three phases emotionally – ‘pick a fight’, ‘sooky la la’ and ‘I feel like my life is rubbish’. It never ceases to amaze me how when I am in the pick a fight phase how I will absolutely go to the mat fighting for an issue that I couldn’t care less about 5 minutes later. This stage mainly occurs 2-3 days before my period, I know this because I have a handy app. on my Iphone which ‘tracks my period’ and it sends me a little message ‘three days till expected P- day!’ The greatest relief to the ‘pick a fight’ phase is evening primrose oil tablets or as they are known in my house ‘magic pills’. Within half an hour of taking one I just seem to even out again emotionally. They are brilliant. My husband has permission to hand me one whenever he wants during this phase – without being yelled at, that’s the theory anyway.

The other night I knew I was leaving ‘pick a fight’ for ‘sooky la la’ when I cried my eyes out during the Masterchef elimination.

I will have at least one major ‘my life is crap’ speech during my period – don’t we all? It will certainly include some key common sentences from period to period like: everybody wants/expects me to do/be blah blah blah. These speeches must include many irrational and extreme words like ‘never’ and ‘always’ to be truly fitted out.

Some of the positive phases of my period are the very humorous and vague moments that occur, bizarre purchases and the eating of copious amounts of sugar without weight gain. My most favourite thing during these few days a month is those precious friends in whose company I can say ‘I’m pre-menstrual’ or ’I have my period’ and they automatically give me a wide berth for what ever issues arise physically and emotionally. I want to dedicate this post to you. I love you and thank you for every leak that you were ok with, every conversation that’s been terminated because I was getting angry and for laughing with me till we cry over some stupid thing that for the life of me I couldn’t remember 5 minutes later but almost leaked in another way over.

You are the best woman that life has to offer.

Over and out

Catherine xox

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July 25, 2012

Kylie, the Salvos and the Guitar

Recently The Guardian newspaper had an article on their website posing the question, “Is Guitar Music on the way out?”  It was a collection of thoughts from various contributors – nothing remarkable about it, but the very fact that the question is being asked has big implications for the church.

For a long time the church has used music to communicate its message and to stir the faith of her people.  In my 26 years as a Christian I have sung songs pretty much every Sunday and plenty of times during the week.  I have loved it, and look forward to doing it for the next 26 plus years.

I have sung hymns written 300 years ago to an organ and I have sung contemporary songs written in the 21st century to a modern band playing with very healthy volume.  I’m happy to leave the hymns behind.

In terms of my own tastes, I am a child of my era.  I was born in 1973.  I have loved music ever since I was a child.  I have a theory that music was perfected in 1987.  In the lead up, Dire Straits produced Brothers in Arms in 1985.  The stage was now set.  In 1987 we then had in a single year the 3 greatest albums of all time.  There were the 2 greatest pieces of an Australian music, Kick by INXS and Diesel and Dust by Midnight Oil.  Then there was the most wonderful album ever, the reason that music was invented, The Joshua Tree by U2.  And if that was not enough before the year was out possibly the all time best ever song was released when Guns n Roses gave us Sweet Child O Mine.  When music is that good, there is only one direction that it can head.  And didn’t it head there fast!

Having been so fortunate to be alive and a teenager when music was soaring to such great heights you can imagine my alarm when in 1988 Kylie Minogue’s version of The Loco-Motion spent 7 weeks at number one.  Excuse me?????  It didn’t even have real drums in it – it was just synthesiser music!!  Where were we just 12 months ago????

The big question at that point was would popular music embrace the synthesiser and gradually shun the drumkit?  Or would synthesiser music be recognised for the plague that it is?

It seems that I am on the losing side of this argument.  Synthesiser music now reigns supreme on the music charts.  Guitar music is still around but is on the way out.  If that wasn’t enough, singing has been partly replaced by talking.  They call it rap.  Guitar and drum music will always retain a niche, but that’s all.  Jazz music – dominant in the 1930’s – retains a niche, but that’s all.  I think that’s where the rock music that I love will end up.

Amongst the contemporary church the guitars and drums are far from endangered.  They dominate!  What about the synthesiser?  Most contemporary churches that have a full band have a keyboard, but the guitars and drums tend to drive the music.  It suits me just fine, but we are asking for trouble when we expect people to listen to dance music all week, and then guitar music on a Sunday.  That’s a scenario that is going to end badly for the “contemporary” church.

At one extreme there is the possibility that the contemporary church will go the way of the Salvation Army.  When they started out in London in 1865 they used cutting edge music – the brass band.  Despite coming out of a Wesleyan / Methodist background, with a rich tradition of hymns, they used their own music and it was a hymn free zone.  They often put Christian lyrics to tunes that ordinary people sung in pubs.  And today…they still use brass bands.  Is the brass band as cutting edge today as it was in 1865?  Um, not quite.  I would think that their founder, William Booth, would be stunned if he saw what they were doing.

To avoid going the same way the contemporary church has to embrace dance music.  Personally, I can’t say that I am looking forward to it.  But lest we end up being the only ones with guitars and drums in 50 years it has to happen.  To avoid that future I am happy to phase out the guitars at church.

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July 18, 2012

The Working of Miracles

It makes sense to me that in every congregation, in every church, in every nation on Earth there are those that God has gifted to move in the working of miracles. But let’s suppose for now that this wasn’t the case and we were all equally ‘ungifted’ in this area. Jesus makes a bold statement to all people in John 14:12 which should give us all some hope to seeing miracles happen.

‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.’

Is there any way we can position ourselves better to see the reality of these words in our life? I believe there are four things every Christian can do to be better positioned to see miracles happen in their life:

Know Him, Know His will

Jesus only ever did what He saw the Father doing. How then can I see what the Father is doing and do it too? Simply, through relationship. Jesus cultivated a life of prayer and fasting often retreating to quiet places to pray to the Father. We can deepen our relationship with the Father by reading His book which reveals His heart, His plans and His purposes. Also, we can ask Him what He wants us to do.  Everyday this is my prayer. ‘Father, I want to see what you see, I want to do what you want me to do. I make myself available to you in whatever way you choose to use me.’ Jesus had miraculous encounters doing some very ordinary tasks – attending a wedding, sailing from one place to another, visiting a well for some water. Jesus did miracles ‘as He went’ from here to there. The miracles John listed earlier from the book of Acts were done in the ordinary lives of ordinary people. They weren’t superstars – they had just spent heaps of time with Jesus. They did life with Him for 3 ½ years. They knew Him – and the bible says if we know Him we know the Father.

Clean Hands, Pure Heart

I believe we must have clean hands and a pure heart to be used by God. Even in Christ, we all sin even though we don’t have to anymore. We all hold onto issues with others for too long, letting our forgiveness accounts get too long. Pornography, stealing, lying, gossip, being judgemental, loving money more than God, self-righteousness, being religious and jealousy are issues that can trip us up and block us from ‘hearing and seeing’ what the Father is doing. Sin blocks us from hearing from God (Ps. 66:18) .  I strongly encourage you to keep short ‘sin’ accounts with all men and God and cultivate a life of Godly character.

Faith – the big One!

Without Faith it is impossible to please God BUT how do you know if you have faith or not when praying for a miracle? I believe the key to answering this question is found in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” – Simply, faith sees that which isn’t physically available yet. Faith sees what is when it isn’t! We know that Jesus did what He ‘saw’ the Father doing. How did He ‘see’ it? Most likely in His mind. We are told to have the ‘mind of Christ’. Why? because our minds can be yielded to other ‘mindsets’ and ‘agenda’s’ but if we can set our mind apart for Christ, yielding to His plan and purpose we give opportuinity for our ‘Christ mind’ to act as a ‘godly movie screen’ for the Holy Spirit to show us a ‘picture’ of what the Father is doing. Didn’t Jesus teach us to pray for it to be ‘on Earth as it is in Heaven’  For example – imagine you are praying for someone who is dying of cancer? How does cancer look in Heaven to the Father – its totally gone!  There is no diease or illness in Heaven! Therefore, I can ask God to show me a picture of the person totally well – free of the cancer that is upon them.  Once I see a picture of that person totally healed revealed on my ‘Christ mind’  I can pray with faith because I can ‘see’ what the Father ‘sees’ in Heaven  and I can then ‘believe’ how it  should be on Earth. That is what faith looks like!

So, how do you know if you have the faith to pray for a miracle – ask yourself can I see it? Not once has God failed to ‘show me’ what I need to see to have the faith to pray and believe.

Have a go!

It doesn’t matter how much ‘time’ you spend with the Father or how ‘clean and pure’ you are or how much you practise ‘seeing’ in faith there comes a moment when you’re literally required to ‘activate’ all of that and actually DO SOMETHING or SAY SOMETHING.  And it is only when you open yourself up to that moment and step out that you are perfectly positioned for God to take over and do His part – the miracle itself! Those that cultivate the ‘working of miracles’ around there life are not necessarily gifted to do so they are just willing to position there hearts, hands and faith in a way that God is free to do something. No matter the level of gifting if you never pray for a miracle or lay hands on the sick you will never see miracles.

When do people look for a miracle? People look to God for a miracle in the hour of their deepest and most desperate need when all else has failed. They often have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I remind myself of this as I step into the realm of faith and miracles. I refuse  to allow my pride or fear rob someone else of the opportunity to see God do something miraculous for them.

I want you to know it is not Ok with me that you are sick and need a miracle. It is not Ok with me that you need a financial miracle. It is not Ok with me if you need another sort of miracle and you can’t find anyone to pray. I will make myself available. I will pray my best prayer for you and your situation.

Email me: blogsidebyside@gmail.com

Blessings,

Catherine xox

July 18, 2012

Positioned to do Miracles Part 1

The book of Acts is a history of the early church written by Luke to help his friend Theophilus understand the faith of which he has become a part.  It follows on from the gospel of Luke, picking up the story after Jesus rose from the dead but before he ascended to heaven.

Of course the chapter divisions that we see on our bibles were not in the original text.  However here is an interesting question – what happens in every single chapter of Acts until chapter 15?

Answer – something miraculous.  In each and every one of the first 14 chapters there is an event that is supernatural.

In chapter 1 Jesus ascends into heaven.  In chapter 2 the church is born with flames of fire and speaking in tongues.  In chapter 3 the crippled beggar is healed.  In chapter 4 there was a supernatural earthquake where the church met (in response to their prayer that God would do miracles).  In chapter 5 there were 2 supernatural executions (yikes!) and even Peter’s shadow was healing the sick.  In chapter 6 Stephen, who “performed amazing miracles and signs”, was arrested but has his face supernaturally radiant.  In chapter 7 Stephen sees a vision of Jesus in heaven as he addresses those who arrested him.  In chapter 8 Philip is taken by the Holy Spirit after he finishes leading the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ.  In chapter 9 Jesus appears to Saul on the road to Damascus, and as an afterthought Peter raises someone from the dead.  In chapter 10 an angel arranges a meeting between Peter and Cornelius, after Peter has a vision from God.  In chapter 11 the church organises its welfare program on the basis of a prophecy about a coming famine given in one of their meetings.  In chapter 12 Peter miraculously escapes from prison when an angel busts him out, after first waking him up.  Chapter 13 sees Paul’s first mission’s trip which was started after the Holy Spirit speaks during a prayer meeting and tells the church what to do, and then an opponent of their ministry is struck blind.  Chapter 14 has Paul and Barnabas continuing to travel, “and the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. (v 3)”.

It is clear that in the life of the early church miracles abounded.  It wasn’t just healings either – it was all sorts of supernatural events. Can you imagine being a part of a church where miracles are normal?  Where the supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit was just what happens in a normal week?  Most Christians I know long to have that decisive intervention of the Holy Spirit in both their lives and in their church involvement.

It seems to me that the best way to bring it about is to be out on the cutting edge of what God is doing.  When Paul was doing missions in places that had never had a Christian witness before it was all happening.

Scholars believe that Acts covers the church’s first 30 years or so.  So very roughly, each chapter is a year or so on from the cross.  If you came to Christ in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and then lived the rest of your life in Jerusalem then you might end up in your second and third decade of your Christian life reminiscing about how good it was in the first decade.  But if you made yourself available for what God was doing further afield, then you would have fresh stories to add to the ones from earlier on in your Christian life.

We can’t know for certain what the church in Jerusalem was like when Luke is talking about the church in other places – it would not be right to imply an absence of miracles from the silence of Acts about the Jerusalem church.

But what we can know for sure is that where the gospel was advancing miracles continued to abound.  And I am certain that it is still true today.

John

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